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#TakeoverTuesday with Annie Just Commonly

It’s Takeover Tuesday and Annie Just Commonly and I are swapping blogs for today. You can catch my interview on her blog, and I’m giving away a copy of Secret Service Setup, so head over there next.

Welcome Annie!  Let’s get to know more about you in a formal way and then we’ll get to more personal stuff when we play Would You Rather!

Just Commonly, AKA Annie is an avid reader turned blogger.  She is the mind behind  Just Commonly  blog, sharing what she loves most – Jesus & all things book and bookish . She’s a big fan of all Christian fiction, as well as books in the Young Adult, Middle Grade and even Kids Fiction genre. She’ll test out recipes from cookbooks and share thoughts from biographies to books on nutrition, spiritual help or just any book that struck her fancy. Next to reading, her other interests includes spending time with family and friends, eating, playing with her miniature schnauzer pups, Gabby and Reagan, and somehow challenge her non-existent athletic abilities to improve (tremendously) her tennis and golf game. 

Annie is proud to be one of the founding stewards of the  Christian Fiction Readers Retreat  (CFRR). CFRR is a one day event gathering of Christian Fiction readers and authors, with a focus theme of “Honoring God through Christian Fiction.”  It features speaker sessions, author panels, breakout sessions, prayer & worship and author signings.  You can reach Annie on her blog, Just Commonly , Facebook , Twitter  or Instagram.,

 

Y’all for real, go check out CFRR. It’s a great line-up!

Now on to a former game I played often on the blog. I’m resurrecting it for today. It’s all bookish questions and if you comment below…you’ll be entered for a chance to win one of Annie’s favorite historical romances by one of her favorite historical romance authors, Karen Witemeyer, which makes me super happy because Karen is one of my FAVORITE historical romance authors too! And I loved A Tailor Made Bride!

Would You Rather…

1. Read your favorite book over and over, or read any other book but never get to read your favorite again? So, I don’t like this question. I mean, that’s hard. Are you saying this is FOREVER? Do I really have to CHOOSE?  

 
2. Meet a “book boyfriend” in real life or the author who created him? Totally the author. I mean we can gush together about him and even think of some names to call him, like McDreamy or McSteamy – wait, those are taken. The lovely thing about book boyfriends are the very fact that they are fictional, and the mind behind that created them are worth exploring more, don’t you think? 
 
3. Be saved by a military hero or a law enforcement hero? LAW ENFORCEMENT HERO – OK, no disrespect there, but I have my reasons. I’m kinda partial to a Gibbs, Tony, Booth…etc. Wow, 2 out of 3 are also military (at least ex). Hmmm…
 
 4. Be the heroine or the sidekick? Totally sidekick. I love being the sidekick. You get to enjoy all the fun while being the sensible one. Right?! 
 
 5. Live in the pages of a historical or a thriller? Historical – I think. Ask me again tomorrow.  
 
 6. Read only setting on the coast or only settings in the South? Coast…I think. OK, ask me again tomorrow. 
 
7.  Read paperbacks or digital books? PRINT ALL THE WAY! I love the touch, the smell, the look. How can you admire the book and it’s beauty while it’s stuck inside a screen? 
 
 8. Read your favorite author forever or only get to read new authors from now on? I love favorite authors, but I think variety is good. WAIT. Is this a forever scenario like I can’t read any more of theirs?  Jesse, I’m beginning to not like these questions. 😬
 
9. Fall in love with a spy hero or an undercover agent hero? Undercover agent hero. Spies are overrated – OK, maybe also too much James Bond.
 
10. Be a damsel in distress or a rescue-the-hero heroine? Rescue-the-hero heroine’s sidekick. 😉 I mean sidekicks have some great moves!
 
Such great answers and they made me laugh. Yep, they had to get a little harder as we went. 😉 Thanks for being such a fantastic sport. I’m so glad we swapped blogs today. I love having you here. 

Givewaway-Tailor-Made bride

 

 

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Visit Annie’s blog and enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Secret Service Setup, my newest release! 

All About Valentine’s Day and Romance with Carrie Schmidt!

Can I just say how super-sweet it is to have Carrie Schmidt (you may know her through Reading is My Superpower blog and Facebook page). Let me tell you a little about this precious lady.

Carrie  is an avid reader, book reviewer, story addict, KissingBooks fan, book boyfriend collector, and cool aunt. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. A reviewer for RT Book Reviews and a co-founder of the Christian Fiction Readers’ Retreat, Carrie lives in Kentucky with her husband Eric and their quirky dog Zuzu. She can be found lurking at various blogs and websites (because she can’t stop talking about books) but her main home is the blog she started in 2015 – ReadingIsMySuperPower.org.

She’s been super precious to me and I’m glad she’s here.  Waving at you, Carrie! I asked her some questions about romance, Valentine’s Day, and of course books. You’re going to love her answers and guess what? She’s giving away a Romance Trope and Book Boyfriend candle to 2 lucky winners! (U.S. Only, the entry form will be below.

So, let’s talk romance, books, and Valentine’s Day.

How old were you when you were drawn into the romance genre? What book hooked you?

I was probably 11 or 12, something like that, when I discovered Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke. One read was all it took, and the rest is history 😊

What was it about that book that caused you to fall in love with the romance genre?

I have always loved romance – from the moment I first watched Prince Charming dance with Cinderella. But Love Comes Softly showed me that fictional romance could go beyond Disney’s definition, that it could include real life & history & friendships. And that, in the process of telling me a great story about two people who fall in love, it could also help me fall in love with God a little more too.

Why do you think women love to read romance? Is this why you love romance? If not, tell us what it is you love about this genre?

I really think women love to read romance because it’s part of that ‘eternity’ that God has placed in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We crave these romance reads where some form of Prince Charming comes riding in on some form of a white horse, rescues us (I mean…the heroine), and we (I mean…they) lived happily ever after… because it’s the story God’s been telling from the beginning! We are the Bride of Christ & one day Jesus will come riding in on a literal white horse (see Revelation 19) and rescue us for the ultimate happily ever after (Revelation 21). So I think it’s just part of our soul’s DNA and, because we’re still waiting for it to play out in reality, we gobble up these little reflections of it in the meantime. And all that to say (lol) – that’s what I love about reading romance! It reminds me that I’m living in an even greater Story with an even better HEA that one day will actually come true. And… you know… the hot heroes and swoony kisses don’t hurt either.

Oh my word! I agree too. It’s why I love to write it. I have to share that Divine Romance with readers!! Love this so much. And uh, no they don’t!  

Describe the perfect romantic hero? (Have you found this hero in a book or are you still waiting on him?)

The perfect romantic hero? Hmm.. that’s a tough one. Because so much of it depends on the story itself, the reader’s personal preference and the chemistry with the heroine. But for me? It never hurts if he resembles Henry Cavill (just sayin), if he speaks in some sort of accent, if he’s flirty and/or smoldering, if falling in love takes him by surprise but hits him hard emotionally and (on that note) if he’s not afraid to share emotion when appropriate. He needs to love more than himself, and he needs to be a protector at heart. And a good kisser. But … looking like Henry Cavill gets you a lot of grace on these other points 😉

Have I found him yet? I believe so. But currently it’s a 5-way tie. And interestingly enough, three of them favor Henry Cavill a great deal. LOL! At least I’m consistent. (I remember one of your heroes looking suspiciously like Henry too 😉 ) (Jess here: Yes, I did use Henry but not for Holt! For Griffin Noble, but you see how you want. I don’t mind!) Anyway, I had a book boyfriends shirt made with five of my very faves, and the guys include:

#myJames (aka James MacDonald from Carla Laureano’s Five Days in Skye)

Ty Porter (from Becky Wade’s Meant to Be Mine)

Charlie Lionheart (from Joanne Bischof’s The Lady & The Lionheart)

Vance Everstone (from Dawn Crandall’s Everstone Chronicles)

Wes Harrison (from Pepper Basham’s Just the Way You Are)

I adored Charlie Lionheart and Ty Porter. I also need to step up my game and read and these other books! Do you have a favorite romance sub genre? Why is it your favorite?

I love romantic suspense. Because as long as I’ve loved romance, I’ve also loved mysteries. Nancy Drew is my home girl. (Do people say that anymore? Lol) But my favorite Nancy Drew stories were the ones when she teamed up with the Hardy Boys because, let’s face it, Frank Hardy made a better book boyfriend than Ned Nickerson. (sorry Ned) Getting to read a romantic suspense ties both of these loves together for me, plus the tension created from the suspense adds to the romantical tension which is another win-win.

Yes! I mean how can this rom/suspense writer who always throws in mystery not love that answer. Have you ever thought about writing your own romance novel? Why or why not?

Thought about it? Yes. Will I ever actually write one? Probably not. Mainly because a) I don’t think I have that specific kind of talent and b) it would cut into my reading time too much lol.

What is one romance novel that has stuck with you over many years? Why do you think that is?

Newlywed Games by Mary Davis. I don’t exactly know why it’s stuck with me for so long but I think one of the reasons is because it was really the first Christian fiction I read that showcased the kind of romantic tension that makes you forget to breathe. The chemistry between Bruce and Meghann is AMAZING and electric and oh-so-swoony. Also I think this is the book that started my love of the ‘fake marriage’ trope, which is really a derivative of the marriage-of-convenience story that Love Comes Softly spearheaded. It all comes full circle 😊

Okay, I gotta read this book! Wow! Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Some people don’t want to be told to do something special on one day but feel romance and kind gestures should be done all throughout the year, which I agree, but I love Valentine’s Day. Might be because it’s the anniversary of the first date with my husband (24 years ago!) What’s your take on this day?

As a kid, I loved Valentine’s Day! My parents made it so special for us. From the special meal my mom would make (complete with hearts cut out of just about any food she could, even the butter) to the scavenger hunts that would send us scurrying all over the house to find the next clue and – eventually – our candy gifts. As an adult, Valentine’s Day hasn’t been nearly that much fun haha! But it will always be special to me because in my senior of college this guy (who happened to be one of my best friends) decided to boycott Valentine’s Day by going to see You’ve Got Mail together (yeah, just about everyone saw through that except us). A year and a half later, we got married ❤

I love this! How fun! Have you read many romance novels set around Valentine’s Day? Which ones do you recommend? (I read Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh and took that idea last year, stringing paper hearts all over for my man to read. He was so surprised and saved them!)

Ok, now you’re really making me think!! LOL. Honestly?!? I know that there are some, but I haven’t read many. I’m not sure why. Totally seems like my thing. I definitely recommend Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh and The Cupcake Dilemma by Jennifer Rodewald. Other books that people have recommended to me (but I haven’t read yet) are Once Upon a Winter’s Heart by Melody Carlson, Secretly Yours by Valerie Comer and Operation Valentine by Elizabeth Maddrey.

If your special someone gave you a gift for Valentine’s Day that was solely focused on a book/reading them, what would that gift (day or weekend!) look like?

Ooooo what a fun question! I have always loved the idea of this bookstore date from The Dating Divas! And I really really want one of these adorable custom bookish blankets from Sweet Sequels on Etsy!

I love the Dating Divas site! I just printed some stuff from there for this lovely week! I’m spoiling my man because he ALWAYS spoils me!

Thank you so much for being here today, Carrie! It’s been fun. Readers and writers, you can also connect with Carrie on Facebook @ meezcarriereads and everywhere else social at @meezcarrie.

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 2 Novelly Yours candles! 

 

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Forward Friday: From Rascal to Regardful.

When I was seventeen, I was a brat. There. I said it. My deepest, darkest secret. Okay, it’s not. But it is true. Most seventeen year olds are brats. They have it all figured out. Know everything. Hey, if you weren’t, I said most not all. 

One of my favorite people in the Bible is Joseph. He’s great to study for character growth (writers, did you hear that?). At seventeen he’s a spoiled brat. Oh, yes. He is.

Genesis 37:3-4 MSG: Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was the child of his old age. And he made him an elaborately embroidered coat. When his brothers realized that their father loved him more than them, they grew to hate him—they wouldn’t even speak to him.

He was daddy’s fave and Daddy made no bones about it. He made this amazing coat of prestige and honor and Joseph wore it proudly. Didn’t seem to mind the fact that it hurt his brothers deeply or that being the fave caused hatred in their hearts. 

These brothers couldn’t even speak peaceably to him. Now, I don’t know about you but when someone is unhappy with me, I know it. I can see it on their faces and feel it when I enter a room. That’s just someone unhappy! Not hatred.

But Jospeh didn’t care. He didn’t bother to see. Instead he chose to tell them his dream about how they’d bow to him. Yeah, that’s what you do when you’re hated. You lord a dream over them. Not once. But twice! Nice work, Jo.

And one day, Daddy sends Joseph out to check on his brothers. Why wasn’t he out there helping in the first place? Oh yeah, he’s spoiled. He’s a rascal. Dons the coat, oh yes, he does. Because that’s what you do when you’re about to approach your own brothers. Rub it in their faces that you’re loved most. I kinda feel bad for the brothers. 

While Joseph was in the distance, the brothers plotted to kill Joseph.

Not just give him the business, but murder him. They’ve murdered before…remember poor Dinah and the revenge on the entire town for the act of one.

But they end up selling him as a slave.

I wish we had time to pick all this apart. But we don’t. Joseph ends up a slave and then imprisoned and what we learn is that Joseph grows and matures over this period of time. Because how can a rascal like Jospeh rule a nation humbly? He can’t. Not unless he’s been humbled and molded into the kind of man God would need to rule and lead.

There are many glimpses of Joseph’s maturity and humbling process, but this one is one of my favorites. In Genesis 40, the chief butler (cup bearer) and the chief baker are thrown into the prison for offending the Pharaoh. Joseph is put in charge of them. Day in. Day out. 

Verse 3-7 MSG: “After they had been in custody for a while, the king’s cupbearer and baker, while being held in the jail, both had a dream on the same night, each dream having its own meaning. When Joseph arrived in the morning, he noticed that they were feeling low. So he asked them, the two officials of Pharaoh who had been thrown into jail with him, “What’s wrong? Why the long faces?”

The NKJV says, “He saw they were sad.” 

At seventeen, he was oblivious. He ignored the hateful glares, the snarled lips. The disdain in their words. Maybe he saw the looks of sadness when he wore that coat the first time. But he didn’t think to spare them the pain by not wearing it. By not having some kind of conversation with them or Jacob. 

But now.

Now, he’s seeing. “You’re sad. What’s wrong?” Not only does he see, but he speaks. He inquires. “Why are you upset?”

Joseph was now hoping for the future, but living in the present.

I wonder if he’d regarded his brothers’ countenances and inquired if maybe things would have been different. Maybe. Maybe God would have gotten him to Egypt to fulfill his destiny and God-given dreams another way. I don’t know.

I do know this: Joseph had been more preoccupied with being the favorite and his future dreams than he was about the present. And he missed A LOT! 

Our God-given dreams require planning and preparation on our part.  I had to actually write and do the work to be published. And I admit, that for a time I became so focused on the gift that I neglected the present. I wasn’t awake to the “now.” I wasn’t paying attention to what God might doing right then in me, through me. 

Maybe that’s you. Don’t be so consumed with the dreams and the future that you neglect what’s right in front of you.  Wake up! Wake up and be present in the moment. See the people around you. Notice the hurt, the pain. Notice you might need a conversation with someone you love. Humble yourself now! Don’t go through a pit and a prison to do it. 

Don’t miss the moments. 

Don’t wait dozens of years to wake up. 

Yes, God has dreams for you in the future. But He also has dreams for you to walk into today! 

Forward Challenge: Be awake today. Remove the apps from your phone. Step away from working toward your dream for one hour, two, a day and be present in the moment. Who looks sad and needs encouragement from you? 

Forward Scripture: “…Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.” Proverbs 8:34 MSG

Forward Prayer: God, who made the day, awake me to present in it and responsive to Your will as You start Your day’s work. Thank you for Your good plans that include me. Open my ears to hear You and my eyes to see You and where You are at work. Help me to take notice of those around me and recognize when they need a word of hope, of encouragement and give me ,through Your Holy Spirit, the words to say. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

What do you need to do today in order to be AWAKE and present?

Forward Friday: Refuse to Stay Dead

2018. I can’t count all the things I’d like to not see happen or live through in 2018 that I had to deal with in 2017. I’m sure you feel the same way. Maybe not. But probably.

This year, my one word is awake and Forward Fridays will be dedicated to what I’m studying, learning, and understanding about this word. I hope you’ll join me, learn something yourself and challenge yourself to move forward in this year, fully awake. And there will be some guest posts by some wonderful people. I think we can always learn from others’ experiences.

Today, I want to talk about a dead man. And more importantly the Man who raised him back to life.

Awake: to become aroused or active again (according to Merriam-Webster. ) It also means: alive.

Let’s unpack this amazing account. We won’t be able to touch every detail, but we will hit some highlights.

John 11.

I have it here for you in the MSG and NKJV. I’m going to use MSG to give it that one-two punch. 

The first thing we hear of is that a man, a friend of Jesus’s, was sick. Word gets around. But that’s not the only thing that Jesus heard when word was sent. “The one you love so very much is sick.” They weren’t just pals and fishing buddies. He loved him so very much. Like he loves you. Like he loves me. You’d think he’d be up on his feet, “Let’s go, people. I have to get to him.”

Isn’t that what we do when our loved ones are ill? We rush to their bedside, the hospital. We waste no time if it’s in our power to be there. It was in his power to be there sooner than when he got there.

But he waited two whole days! You ever feel like you need a miracle, help, provision, hope…fill in the blank and Jesus falls through–doesn’t show up and you know it’s in his power to do so? I have. 

Instead Jesus responds like this: “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”

Um…for those gathering around Lazarus, I’m sure they thought differently. I’m sure Lazarus thought differently. “I’m dying, here, Lord! I’m not gonna make it!” I can imagine Lazarus grabbing ahold of his sisters’ hands. “Go! Get Jesus.”

And they did. Because it was fatal! Wasn’t it? By human standards. 

Crickets.

But two days passed. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go back to Judea.” Now he wants to go. Now you want to show up? It’s too late now. The damage has been done. It’s final. Like we’ve buried this. It’s dead. We’re in the grieving stages. If you can’t show up when I ask you to the first time. Then why come at all? Ever had any of these thoughts? Questions? You could have done something. But you didn’t. You sat around ignoring our call for TWO DAYS! 

The disciples didn’t want him to go. “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back?” You’ll die if you go back! They wanted to protect him over anything that might be done for Lazarus. Thomas the twin says (paraphrase): “Welp, let’s just go die with him then.” 

Opposition was in between Jesus and Lazarus. The Pharisees who wanted him dead. And death itself. But that didn’t stop him. Even if it felt too late to do a single thing.

Because to Jesus: “This sickness isn’t fatal…Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”

“Then let him rest for crying out loud!” they said (paraphrase). Sleeping it off is the best medicine. Even back then, I guess.

Then Jesus got literal. “Lazarus died.” 

Oooh. Well…

“And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”

New grounds: An area of knowledge or subject of discussion or thought. Factors forming a basis for action or justification for a belief.

It was time for them to see something new. To see a foreshadowing of what was soon to come so they could believe when it happened.

So, they went.

Four. Days. Dead. 

Jesus meets Martha and they have a conversation.

Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life…”

What do you need resurrected? Brought back to life? A marriage? A family restoration? Hope? Dreams? Promises? Health? Joy? Peace? Fill in the blank. What’s been dead and buried for so long that you’ve given up on ever believing Jesus can bring it back? Did you cry out and heard crickets? Saw nothing? Has your faith been buried in a tomb? 

Your sickness (loss of hope, faith, dreams, marriage…you name it) isn’t fatal to Jesus! 

The RIGHT NOW MOMENT for Jesus isn’t always the RIGHT NOW moment for us. RIGHT NOW for Jesus might mean decades later for you. Two days later. Four months. Six years… Or it could mean RIGHT NOW THIS MOMENT. Right now, he can bring back your hope, dead faith, joy…RIGHT NOW! THIS MOMENT! 

Move that stone. Oh, but the stench! EEK.

Move. That. Stone.

“Lazarus, you come out!” Jesus called.

There might have been some awkward tension as onlookers passed glances amongst each other. Some anticipation. Hope. But a lot of awkward glances, I’d think.

And then…a rustling. A scooting along the dirt.

Bound head to toe and face covered, Lazarus the mummy hobbled out like a bad game of Marco Polo. Shuffling toward the sounds outside because the poor dead-now-alive guy couldn’t see! He may have knocked a shoulder, stubbed a toe. He may have oomphed and grr’d his way out. 

But he came out into the light!

Alive. Resurrected.

But bound.

Jesus brought him to life. But he called on others to care for Lazarus in the aftermath, the follow up. “Unwrap him and let him loose.”

A gift! 

I love that phrase: let him loose. Not just to unbind him, but to give him freedom with no limits! Ever used that verbiage? I’d like to let Joanna Gaines loose on my house. 

Let a bound man who become free loose on the world and see what happens! Let a dead man who has been brought back to life loose on the world…see what happens!

Many that were there watching who didn’t believe, believed! In fact, the Word says, “That was a turnaround for many…”

When God brings something dead back to life, maybe YOU yourself, it can be a turnaround for many. Have you been lifeless and dead due to bitterness, tragedy, hurt? Have you given up on God, on life, on love? God can and will breathe new life into you. Ask him to call you out of the dead, musty tomb to live again. It will glorify Jesus. It will be the turnaround for many.

Awoken people turned loose…they set the world on fire with the love and passion of an all-consuming God.

What needs woken up in you? I’d love to pray for you.

Forward Challenge: Take a notebook, your bible, and a pen. Get alone with God and ask him to reveal areas in your life that need woken back up to life. Write them down and ask God to resurrect them.

Forward Scripture: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.” John 11:11 MSG

Forward Prayer: Jesus, I need you to wake up dead areas of life. Breathe into me new ___________. Thank you for coming for me. Thank you that even when I think you’ve dropped the ball, you never have. You never ignore me. Never fail me. Your timing is always the right timing and nothing is dead to you. For those loved ones, I can’t bring back, revive in me joy and hope and restore my heart, make me whole. Let my life glorify you and let it be the turnaround for others. And Lord, let me always be mindful of your work and care for those you’re bringing to life. In Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Forward Friday: One Word 2018

December has been a whirlwind, y’all! A good whirlwind, though. I spent less time on social media and more time with friends and family face-to-face. How about you? In fact, lately, I’ve been thinking about the time I spend. Time on social media. Time with my laptop. Time with family. Friends. Time with Jesus. 

Some days I feel the quantity but not the quality. 

I’ve been praying a lot about what God might have me place my focus on this year. It’s going to be another whirlwind–it’s true that the older you become, the faster time seems to pass. I have three books and one (maybe two) novellas releasing this new year. My daughter will be home for one summer before she truly will live somewhere else. My son is entering high school. Things are stirring in other personal areas, in my church. So, Lord, what should my focus be?

I learned several years ago, that resolutions don’t work for me. I give up. Of course, I set goals. I think it’s important to do that. But the ONE WORD or PHRASE for the year keeps me focused.

These past few months, the Lord has really pressed a word on my heart. It whispers through my lips in prayer. A friend ordered me a book and journal with the word and topic for Christmas, not knowing this word has been burning through me. 

AWAKE. I have to admit there are areas where I’ve been asleep, spiritually sluggish. Exhausted to the point of not being able to rouse myself. And the Lord in His tenderness has brought this to my attention and given me a good shake.

What exactly does AWAKE mean? What will this look like in my life? 

I want to be awake mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. I want to SEE all that God has for me and be growing daily. I want to heed what the Lord says and be on guard for distraction and temptation so I can bypass it! I want to be observant like Joseph when he noticed the countenance of the butler and the baker and saw they were upset (you know at one time he wouldn’t have noticed that). 

I want to be AWAKENED. Breathing in God and breathing Him out. 

So each week I’m going to unpack some verses that will help us all awaken, help us all grow and meditate on His word and what it means. I hope you’ll join me, share with your friends, and this year, be awake with me! 

What say you? Are you in?

Forward Challenge: Be awake in all things. Be present. Be observant for what God is doing. Be heedful and obey. 

Forward Scripture: “The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up…—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.” 1 Kings 19:7 MSG

Forward Prayer: Awaken us, Lord. In every area where we’ve been dozing or full-on snoozing. Waken us to Your heartbeat. Your calling. Your Word. Breathe into us and make us live again. No more dry bones. Only life and life more abundantly, in Jesus name. Amen.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution, goal, one word or phrase, or a particular scripture for the new year? I’d love to hear it. 

Happy New Year, Friends!

On the 8th Day of Christmas…

My authors gave to me…

Deep Waters (and an adorable Christmas ornament) by moi… 

An adorbs book cozy from Susan Tuttle 

The Memory of You by Catherine West

A Child’s Christmas Wish by Erica Vetsch

On Love’s Gentle Shore + tote bag from Liz Johnson

The Gift of Twins by Gabrielle Meyer

The Rancher’s Mistletoe Bride by Jill Kemerer

Christmas Captive  by Liz Johnson

What is this I’m talking about? The 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway is BACK!

 

You read that right! Each day the prizes have been building and new winner is drawn daily. On Day 12, the grand prize winner will be drawn and he/she will win all 10 books, bonus gifts, & a Kindle Fire 8!

Just now getting in on the fun? You’re not too late to revisit the prior blogs from Day 1-Day 8 and enter to win. You can enter every single day! Tomorrow, don’t forget to stop by Bethany Turner’s! Her link is below.

Here is the line up:

12/1 Liz Johnson
12/2 Jill Kemerer 
12/3 Gabrielle Meyer 
12/4 Liz Johnson 
12/5 Erica Vetsch
12/6 Cathy West 
12/7 Susan Tuttle 
12/8 Jessica Patch 
12/9 Bethany Turner
12/10 Lindsay Harrel
12/11 Karen Barnett 
12/12 Liz Johnson 

 

Also, if you’re looking for a holiday read to cozy up with while you wait to see if you’re a winner for these sweet prizes above, may I suggest Hope Under Mistletoe? If you love Hallmark movies, holiday romances, and swoon-worthy heroes, plus a beautiful redemption story, then this is the book for you! And only .99 cents! You can purchase it NOW on AMAZON

Merry Christmas, friends!

*Forward Friday will return next week! 

 

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Be Wonder Woman

No, I’m not talking about the woman most Christian ladies are thinking of. The Proverbs 31 woman (though that’s not a bad idea ;)). But before we talk about Wonder Woman…Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Whether you’re surrounded by family and friends or alone–God always deserves our thanks. My daughter will home for a long weekend and that makes me happy. So I won’t be doing a Forward Friday post, however, yesterday we went to see Justice League. Yeah, Superman’s lip was weird thanks to a little CGI removing a mustache he couldn’t shave b/c he has a contract with Paramount for Mission Impossible. Yeah, there might have been some editing issues (I didn’t really notice them but I did read about them).

What stood out to me, with no spoilers here, is Wonder Woman. Once again. I loved her movie. But in the beginning of Justice League, of course she is saving people. Seriously, that’s not spoiler alert. It’s what they do!

The bad guy is firing bullets, about to take down a whole row of hostages and she sprints through, with her forearm cuffs (what are those called?) and she bats away each and every bullet. It’s all slow-mo and fun.

The bad guy runs out of bullets and asks, “Who are you?”

And she says, “I’m a believer.”

It struck me so hard, I teared up.

Because isn’t that what believers should be doing? Quenching all the fiery darts of the enemy. 

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” Ephesians 6:16-18 MSG

Those forearms thingys she wears are like shields (she also carries a shield). She used them expertly, knocking away every bullet (fiery dart). She stunned the enemy.

Who are you?

A believer.

Not only do we use our shield of faith for ourselves, but she was protecting others! As a believer, we should be too. Through intercession. “Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters.” 

Some people say the outfit makes Wonder Woman who she is. I partly agree. Our outfit makes us too. We wear the armor of God. She wears a crown (again we have crown awaiting us). We wear the helmet of salvation. She has a lasso that makes people tell the truth. We wear the belt of truth. She has a shield. We have a shield of faith. She wears shoes that get her to places to bring peace. We also wear shoes of the gospel of peace.  We too wear a breastplate– of righteousness. And like Diana, we have a sword that is mighty in battle. The sword of the Spirit–the Word of God.

We fight with it all. We intercede for those who may be weary, unsaved, broken, afraid, unsure, fill in the blank. And when the enemy has exhausted all his bullets, we stand firm in our faith.

Who are you?

I am a believer.

That’s a Wonder Woman.

Ladies, BE WONDER WOMAN!

“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” Ephesians 6:10-12 MSG

Have you seen Wonder Woman or Justice League yet? Do you ever consider yourself to be Wonder Woman?

 

Forward Friday: Sheltered From Fear

The morning was overcast, but beautiful. The leaves were golden, crimson, burnt orange. Glorious. The weather was crisp but not cold and I spent the better part of it outside with my earbud in and worship music playing. Intimate worship–my favorite. Just me, the Creator of heaven and earth and ground to eat up as I walked and prayed and praised.

It started to rain (just a sprinkle but it was cold!) and I came inside and opened the curtains to our glass doors so I could view the pond and woods. One of the random cats in our neighborhood likes to roam around that pond, fishing I guess. Who knows! As long as he eats things I don’t want in my house, I’m happy and he can hang out as long as he’d like.

I was listening to Dara McLean’s song:  Find Rest  (so powerful, give it a listen!)  

The cat was strolling the bank, pausing, dipping his paw into the water then moseying on. I was worshiping inside. 

And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the cat spring into action and high-tailed it across the property. So. Fast. 

Something had startled him, frightened him. Threatened him–could have been a snake! He bolted.

That blur of white beelined it straight into our barn. At first, I thought maybe he was sick of getting wet. But the way he ran–the way it hit him out of nowhere…couldn’t be. It was barely sprinkling at this point.

He was afraid of something.

Ugly Cat (mean name but I can’t help it. He’s not an attractive cat!) raced right into the barn. But he never would have found shelter from his fears if the doors hadn’t been open. But they were.  

He found safety inside.

You and I have fears. Sometimes they hit us out of nowhere. Sometimes we see them creeping up on us day by day. Minute by minute.

It’s a loved one making choices that are going to affect them in horrific ways.

It’s the disturbing news.

The bad report from the doctor.

It’s a threat.

Circumstances.

Finances.

Loss of insurance.

Loneliness.

You fill in the blank.

But like that cat, we can run to safety. We can find shelter in the arms of our God. They are always open to us. Always a safe place to run. Always trustworthy.

Oh, but we run in so many other directions, don’t we? We run aimlessly which is exhausting, especially if we sprint. We run to things we call “guilty pleasures” and to comforts like food, shopping, entertainment etc…good things. Bad things. Doesn’t matter. We will not find rest. We will not find peace. We will not find joy unless we’re running to the LORD. Into His arms. Into His grace. Into His unfailing love. 

So many things ruin us. Let us be ruined for better, not worse. Let us be ruined for any useless thing because it’s in HIs shelter where we’re blessed, changed, made new. It’s in His shelter we find our identity. Our passion. Our purpose. You’ll find it nowhere else, friend. 

Let’s run to Him today, and not go back. 

Where do you run when you feel afraid? 

Forward Challenge: Whatever has you anxious, afraid, nervous–take it to the powerful arms of God today. Lay them at His feet. Let Him crush them for you today. There is nowhere safer to run than to His shelter.

Forward Prayer: Lord, thank you that we can run to Your loving arms when we’re afraid, nervous, insecure, concerned or even when everything is okay. They are always open under any circumstance. Today, Lord, show us somehow, some way how much You love us and want to secure us in Your arms. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Forward Scripture:  

 

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Forward Friday: Flushing Fear

 

Fear and anxiety go hand in hand. We all have them. 

My son has a few “phobias.” He’s looked them up on the phobia website, so this past Sunday when our pastor preached on fear and brought up this website, he looked at me with a grin. But then he went on to talk about fear not being from God. My son grew quiet. We’ve talked about his fears and anxiety often. I’ve encouraged him to pray about them, through them.

God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear. Fear is paralyzing. Fear keeps us from moving forward. 

I had quite a bit of fear when I began writing. What if this doesn’t get published? What if I fail? What if I get laughed out of a room, a conference, a pitch session? Every “what if” was one of failure. God had to remind me: What if I succeed? What if I’m greeted into the industry with a smile and handshake or hug? What if these stories are published? What ifs don’t have to be scary. They just typically are. Because fear tends to dominate.

David told Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:20-21(MSG)“Take charge! Take heart! Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; he won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch. He’s at your side until every last detail is completed for conducting the worship of God.”

Whatever you face today, whatever fear is staring you down, paralyzing you, pushing you back from being obedient to God in whatever He’s asked you to do, know that he won’t walk off and leave you alone. He will finish what He started in you and bring it to completion.

“Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.” John 19:30 MSG. You may know the verse said like this: It is finished. Jesus hung there and stuck it all out for you and for me. 

Until it was finished.

Not a second sooner.

If He would go to those lengths to nail your fears and anxiety to the cross, why would He leave you now?

Too many people walk out on us, leaving us ripped up and scarred.

Jesus was scarred just to stay with us. To the very end.

I know my son was listening intently to that sermon on fear. He heard how God wants us to be like Gideon . To believe God sees us differently. He called Gideon a mighty warrior. My son’s first and middle name together mean: warrior/arrows. In God’s eyes he’s not a boy riddled with anxiety and fears. He’s fierce. A warrior. 

But my little warrior carries a fidget cube with him. It’s not because he’s antsy. It soothes his anxiety. He keeps it in his pocket and rolls the buttons around. His sister gave it to him to have at school. At the end of service, he asked me if he could go to the bathroom and I could tell he legit had to go, so I told him to go on.

When he came back he had this grin on his face. 

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Well…I dropped my fidget cube in the toilet.”

I snickered of course. “Did you flush it?”

“No, I used a little piece of toilet paper and got it out, then washed it really good.”

Gross. Gross. Gross.

But the thought hit me Monday morning while talking with a friend on Voxer.  That fidget cube represents his fears and anxieties. Oh that he would flush the fear and not try to fish it out of the toilet.

Oh that I would flush my fears down the toilet and walk out of the bathroom trusting more in God and how He sees me. Instead, I’ve picked those fears out of the toilet when God was nudging me to flush the away. l’ve picked back old anxieties instead of letting them go down the drain.

My prayer is that my son will be able to dump the fidget cube. My prayer is that you and I will be able to dump our “fidget cubes” too.

Forward Challenge: Put God’s Word to your fear today. Out loud. You are an overcome. A warrior. A child of God. Whatever He’s called you to do, or to not do, you can. Don’t let fear hold you back!

Forward Prayer: Lord, you have not given us a spirit of fear. We know that tucked safely in Your arms we are sheltered. We can do all that You have asked us to do. We can give up all that you have asked us to give up from unhealthy habits to unhealthy relationships. Every weight and sin that hold us back and down, we can toss aside and lay at Your scarred feet. Give us the faith to believe. The strength to act. And the courage to boldly face those things we have feared. No longer in bondage to fear, we are free in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Forward Scripture: 

*I am not talking about clinical anxiety that requires medication. Some fear and anxiety (PTSD) need to be dealt with through professional help (and of course prayer). 

What about you? Do you have some fears you know you need to flush down the toilet instead of fishing them out, “cleaning them off” and pocketing them again?

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Forward Friday: Serving Family

A couple of Sundays ago, one of our pastors, Kevin Hauman, made a statement when talking about families that struck a chord in me. He said, “We have to serve our families.” Sounds simple and common sense, but I have to admit, I never really equated what I do at home as serving. Not really. I cook, clean, keep laundry (except my man’s because he likes to do his own and I don’t argue ;)) up and groceries bought etc…It’s just, you know, what I do as mom. Not that my husband doesn’t do any of these things, he does them often and my kids help out. But for the most part, I do these things. I do them without much thought. It is a labor of love but I haven’t thought of it as that.

Late that Sunday night after the sermon, my husband had a terrible toothache and his stirring with pain woke me. A quiet whisper entered my mind, “He needs an ice pack.” So I thought, “Great! I’ll tell him to go get one!” And Kevin’s words came back to me. “Serve your family.” The Lord spoke to my heart. “You go get him one.”

Was I tired? Yes. Would I have to go all the way downstairs? Yes. Would I probably be wide awake the rest of the night? Probably. But He was right. And so I did. I went downstairs and came back up and brought him an ice pack which helped! Did I lay awake awhile? Yes. But it felt good to serve him out of love. To do that simple task.

Like Mother Teresa said. It’s not how much we do, but how much love is behind it.

What are some simple things you do for your family that you don’t have to, but want to in order to show them how much you love them and want to serve them?

Forward Challenge: Do one thing for each of your immediate family members today that is small, but served with a lot of love. Note how it makes them feel and how it made you feel!

Forward Prayer: Lord, it’s easy to serve our family when it’s things we enjoy doing, but sometimes cooking one more meal, dropping off forgotten books when we are already running late for meetings, or cleaning gooey gum off shoes doesn’t feel loving. Help us to do it anyway and to love like You would. Fill us with overwhelming love and let it shine through our actions.

Forward Scripture: 

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